February 17, 2018

Jennifer Velásquez | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Innovators

Library Journal March 15, 2011: Jennifer Velasquez , Mover & Shaker

Teen Transformer

Jennifer Velásquez wants librarians thinking about teen services to know something important about teens: “They come up with better ideas than you do. Just go with that.”

This principle has guided her in her transformation of the teen programs and services at San Antonio Public Library (SAPL), where she has worked as teen services coordinator since 2000.

Thanks to her collaborative efforts across all 26 SAPL branches, circulation of teen materials rose by 250 percent from 2003 to 2009, and attendance at teen library programs increased by more than 150 percent from 2005 to 2009.

When Velásquez first started working at SAPL, the library offered no consistent teen programming and no designated teen spaces or budget for teen services. Now, teen spaces are an essential consideration whenever new facilities are constructed, and every branch has a dedicated teen liaison—a library staffer ranging from circulation attendant to branch manager—who works with the teens to develop programming.

This is in accordance with Velásquez’s belief that when teens take ownership of spaces, services, and programming, they have a stake in the success of activities and of the library. “A library means nothing if there is not dedicated teen services staff to facilitate and foster teen participation in the context of library service,” she says.

Velásquez warns that the library isn’t always going to be the place where teens go to get their “pellet” of Internet access. “The way teens are accessing and exchanging information is changing rapidly,” she says, “and we must take steps to keep relevant.”

To that end, she reaches future librarians in her role as part-time online lecturer at San José State University, CA, where she teaches an MLIS course in programming and services for YAs. Velásquez is always observing and evaluating service issues, so that, as she puts it, “I can turn real-life experience into learning opportunities for students—I want them to know what it is really like to be a teen librarian.”


Jennifer Velásquez, San Antonio Public Library

CURRENT POSITION Teen Services Coordinator

DEGREE MLS, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, 1991

ACCOLADES YALSAE Award for Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults (1996, 1999); Innovator Award, Tutor.com (2005); New York Times Librarian Award (2005)

FOLLOW @210teenlibrary; 210teenlibrary.wordpress.com